Nuccio Bertone and his team created some of the most important cars of the last century
Automotive News Europe
Giuseppe "Nuccio" Bertone was not a designer, though he claimed to have styled a number of one-off cars in his early years with the family company. But the drawings, he said, were lost in a fire during World War II.
After the war, Nuccio became chief executive of Carrozzeria Bertone and called upon professional designers to run the styling center.
Bertone and his team created some of the most important cars of the last century. He may have been the greatest nurturer of design talent in history.
His first chief designer was Franco Scaglione, a man who was already a well-known before joining Bertone. He was followed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and Marcello Gandini. The two young talents discovered by Nuccio later achieved international fame. Giugiaro was a charter member of the European Automotive Hall of Fame in 2000.
But no matter who worked for him, Nuccio was never completely satisfied with a new car. He left the drawing board to professional designers, but admitted that "many times I drove their pencils."
Nuccio's typical approach to any design discussion: "I am pretty satisfied with the final results. Well, nothing is perfect. For example, I have been fighting with my designers about..."
His memory for detail was legendary -- not only for design elements of all cars all over the world, but also for the names of the people he dealt with during nearly 60 years running Carrozzeria Bertone.
Born in Turin on July 4, 1912, Giuseppe Bertone was nicknamed Nuccio. His father Giovanni founded Carrozzeria Bertone in 1914 after working as a carriage wheel-maker. Nuccio entered the family business while in his early twenties. Step-by-step, he transformed the small family workshop into a manufacturer of prototypes with an integrated design house. The company he built was able to assist car manufacturers with styling, models, engineering, prototype construction and production of up to 20,000 cars a year.
Under Nuccio's guidance, Carrozzeria Bertone produced numerous landmark sports cars, including the Lamborghini Miura, Espada and Countach; the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint and Montreal; the Iso Grifo; Lancia Stratos; Fiat 850 Spider and the Dino Coupe.
The Bertone stylists also designed several high-volume cars, including the Daewoo Espero, Simca 1200S Coupe, Volvo 780 Coupe and the Citroen BX, ZX, Xantia, XM and Berlingo.
Hundreds of influential show cars came out of Nuccio's studio. Among them were the Alfa BAT trio in the1950s and the Testudo, Carabo, Ramarro, Emotion and Karisma in later years.
On the production side, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, originally conceived as a limited run of 500 units, became a huge success. Bertone built 40,000 units. The company also produced 140,000 units of the Fiat 850 Spider and 180,000 Fiat X1/9 spiders, which was remarkably successful in the USA.
If Nuccio had a regret it was Ferrari.
"They have always been with Pininfarina and I never tried to disturb them," he once said. "We made a couple of one-off units on the 250 GT chassis and a production car, the 308 GTB4. I would have liked to have done more for Ferrari."
He was also disappointed with how things turned out at Lamborghini.
"It was a great company which suffered many, many troubles over the years," he said. "But in the good times we made great cars with them."
Despite his advancing age, Nuccio Bertone continued to be involved in the day-to-day operations, particularly on the design side. He would visit the design center in Caprie, northwest of Turin, often on Saturday mornings, "so as not to disturb the designers." But on Monday morning the designers found on their drawing boards Nuccio's observations and suggestions for every proposal.
His last public appearance was in April 1996 at the Turin Motor show. He died in Turin on February 25, 1997 at the age of 82.